Disasters


Over the years, we have introduced and highlighted our many wonderful students and interns in the Preservation Department.  They perform an immense amount of work, and work that is often mundane or sometimes just icky.  Our students have helped us slog through hundreds of fishy smelling architectural drawings after the 2010 floods, they vacuum mold, and they help keep us young.

This time I would like to recognize and thank students that work in the Stacks Management unit.  Last week Rylie Pflughaupt, Rebecca Schmid, and Megan Primorse were shifting a portion of our general collection and discovered what they thought was mold on some of our books.  Our Stacks students are trained to look for signs of mold, water leaks, and other library concerns, while they are shelving and shifting, and they have certainly caught many problems throughout the years.  This time their focus and training alerted us to a mold problem that affected three floors of open stacks.  After being alerted to the mold, Stacks and Preservation students also helped us do a walk-through of stacks areas serviced by the same air handler to identify other books with mold.

moldy books

What our Stacks students found looked like a powdery residue on certain books scattered throughout 44,000 volumes.  These were not obviously moldy books with entire areas covered in fuzzy, full bloom mold.  These looked more like books with old, failed book tape adhesive on the spines or just seriously dusty books.

Powdery mold on books

The other mold pattern was a little more obvious.  The mold formed clumps or dots that were more three-dimensional.  Under magnification you could see the interconnected network and what looked like sporangiophore and sporangium.

Mold dotsOur Environmental Health and Safety staff took tape samples off of our books and vents and identified three types of mold in the area.  Facilities Planning and Management identified a valve stuck open on a humidification unit, and dampers that were not responding properly.  Although we do not know exactly when this bloom happened, looking at our temperature and relative humidity data, we think it happened in late July when the temperature spiked for three days with the corresponding drop in relative humidity and then just as quickly the temperature dropped with the relative humidity spiking, creating warm air and cool surfaces for condensation.

This may finally be the event that makes everyone including Facilities Planning and Management take notice.  Deferred maintenance (waiting for something to break) of the library HVAC system is not adequate.  With all of the additions to the building and expansion of  the existing HVAC system and air handling units, environmental conditions in the stacks areas cannot be kept stable under reasonable conditions especially when the system is not functioning at or near 100%.  After years of charts and graphs and complaints from Preservation, progress may actually be made because of three observant Stacks students alerting their supervisor to possible mold in the stacks.

It’s National Preservation Week! While every week of the year is “preservation week” for cultural heritage professionals, National Preservation Week focuses on outreach to the general public and among allied professions such as archivists, librarians, museum curators, vendors of archival supplies, preservation administrators, and conservators.

Library_Front-b-OL

Here at ISU Library, we’re focusing attention this week on what to do about WET BOOKS.  Too often, a library book accidentally gets wet, and by the time the borrower  has returned it to the library, it is so infested with mold that we end up having to discard the book and charge the borrower a hefty replacement fee.  Library users often don’t realize how expensive it is to replace a library book. Not only are they charged the cost of the book itself, but also processing fees for the book to be acquired, cataloged, and marked for the shelf.

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T-Shirt Giveaway

We’ve designed Preservation Week t-shirts with the design above on the front, and advice about how to handle wet books on the back.  Access Services and Preservation staff will be wearing the t-shirts as well as “Ask Me About Book First Aid!” stickers.  This Wednesday, April 30, through Friday, May 2, we will be giving away free t-shirts to the first 40 library users who ask a t-shirt-wearing staff member about preservation or book first aid.

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During the 2010 flood, we waived fees for replacing damaged books, because we recognized that the campus community was struggling to salvage a lot more than their library books. However, we would really like to save students and staff the cost of replacement fees whenever possible, so we’re campaigning to educate our users about what Preservation can do for them. 

Accidents happen! Sometimes, a drink spills onto a library book. Books get rained on, or dropped in puddles. Bringing a wet book back to the library immediately gives Preservation a chance to dry it properly before permanent damage (warping, cockling, mold) sets in.  Follow our simple tips to help us mitigate damage to our collections, and your reward will be avoiding a potentially costly replacement fee!

Damp Book?

  • Fan open pages
  • Stand book on end in well-ventilated area until dry.
  • Return book to Circulation Desk and tell staff.

Wet Book?

  • Return book immediately to Circulation Desk.
  • If Library is closed: Wrap book in wax paper or foil and freeze. Return the still-wrapped book to the Library as soon as it opens.
  • Do not put a wet book in a plastic bag!

Moldy Book?

  • Seal book in a plastic bag.
  • Return book to Circulation Desk as soon as possible.
  • Warn staff that book is moldy.

Thank you for helping us care for the library collections that we all share!

1091map1This month’s 1091 Project addresses that bane of every library and archives conservator: mold. Whether the mold is black, white, green, magenta, or yellow, it is all treated the same way: with caution and immediate action. The mold that we deal with in the lab comes from three main sources:

  1. newly acquired items for Special Collections and Archives which are valued highly enough to make dealing with mold worth the trouble;
  2. items returning from circulation which were not cared for properly by the borrowing patrons;
  3. mold outbreaks in the collection, which could be caused by a leaky roof or water pipe, or extreme humidity in situations when the HVAC breaks down.
Aspergillus

Asexual fruiting structure of Aspergillus. http://www.atsu.edu/faculty/chamberlain/Website/Lects/Fungi.htm

The “sniff test” is a pretty reliable indicator of mold, but technician Mindy Moe rightly scolds me whenever she sees me lifting a suspect book to my nose. Mold spores, even if dormant, find the warm, moist environment of human nasal passages and lungs to be a cozy place to take up residence. Repeated exposure to mold can also lead to sensitivities and allergies which, in the most extreme cases, can induce life-threatening allergic reactions. So, we always take a little extra precaution when dealing with the fuzzy stuff. Mold can be identified by a visual inspection under magnification, especially under raking light. If a visual examination is inconclusive because the spores are in a dormant phase, or the spot is a residual stain, then the presence of mold can be confirmed by examining the item under UV light, which causes mold hyphae to fluoresce rather dramatically.

MoldFluorescingUnderUVlight

Mold hyphae fluorescing under UV light.

The minimum PPE (personal protective equipment) for dealing with mold includes glasses or goggles, a lab coat (and in general keeping as much skin covered as possible), latex or nitrile gloves, and a P95 or P100 disposable respirator.

PPEforMoldMitigation

PPE for mold mitigation.

Nilfisk

Nilfisk HEPA vacuum for mold removal.

Once personal precautions have been taken, we act. In the case of situations 1 or 2 described above, we are usually dealing with just a few items at a time. The moldy items are first isolated from the rest of the collection, and then assessed for damage. In the case of circulating items which have been returned to the Library with significant mold damage, we usually discard the item entirely and charge the patron to replace it.

In the case of Special Collections and Archives materials, we keep the moldy items quarantined until they can be vacuumed under the fume hood with a special vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter. We try to minimize the amount of moldy items we accept because our staffing levels allow us only 1 to 2 hours per week on our “mold workflow.” Items which have been treated for mold are affixed with a small label saying so, along with the date. In part this is to inform patrons about a potential health risk, and in part this helps us keep track of which items might be making repeat visits to the lab.

Situation 3, a mold outbreak in the collection, is dealt with in a slightly different manner. In the case of an active mold outbreak, the first step is not only to isolate the affected materials as quickly as possible, but also, if possible, to make the active bloom go dormant. We wrap items loosely in waxed paper and put them in one of our conservation freezers. The low temperature and humidity in the freezer will cause the mold to go dormant within a few days. Once the infestation is dormant, the items can be removed from the freezer and vacuumed — and treated further, if necessary — in small, manageable batches.

Mold-infested collection materials in the freezer.

Mold-infested collection materials in the freezer.

Meanwhile, the environmental conditions which caused the mold outbreak in the first place must be dealt with swiftly to prevent it from spreading throughout the collection. Leaking or standing water must be stopped and mopped up, while humidity and temperature levels must be brought into a safe range, and the ventilation checked.  We also have a couple of portable HEPA vacuums for vacuuming mold on-site.

Portable 3M HEPA vacuum for mold.

Portable 3M HEPA vacuum for mold.

In the case of a large mold outbreak affecting thousands of items, we would be too understaffed and under-equipped to cope, so we have vendor contracts in place to work with a professional recovery company under those circumstances.

Let’s head over to Preservation Underground to see how they feel about mold in the Duke University Libraries Conservation Department.

1091MapHappy New Year from the 1091 Project!

This time last year at Iowa State University Library, we were treating records and collection materials recovered after a water pipe burst in Special Collections during Winter Break, when the Library was closed for a week.  Luckily, this small disaster occurred late in the week, and was discovered very quickly. Even so, it was not the auspicious start to the year we would have hoped for.

Our brief respite from the below-zero temperatures of the last "polar vortex" also brought with it... more snow!  And the polar vortex is predicted to return within the next few weeks. Winter in the Midwest is always a challenge!

Our brief respite from the below-zero temperatures of the last “polar vortex” also brought with it… more snow! And the polar vortex is predicted to return within the next few weeks. Winter in the Midwest is always a challenge!

So far this year, we’re staying dry — almost too dry, as we deal with the outrageously low relative humidity that has accompanied the so-called “Polar Vortex” engulfing the Midwest and much of the country. Iowa temperatures have hovered just barely above or below “0” on the thermometer for weeks at a time this winter, and we’ve been keeping our humidifiers humming.

Students-Spring2014-Composite

(L to R:) Ashley, Hope, Bree, and Fang Qi

We said goodbye to student worker Devin Koch when she graduated in December, and we are sadly anticipating more goodbyes this semester. Our longtime students Ashley Arnold and Hope Mitchell have both worked in the lab for nearly four years, and are very much a part of our lab “family.” In May, Ashley will graduate with her BA in Anthropology, and Hope will complete her MA in History. They’ll be handing over the student workflow to our new hires, Bree Planica and Fang Qi Li, both of whom have been making incredible strides in developing their handskills and repair knowledge since they were hired last August.

NFHJ

Northwestern Farmer and Horticultural Journal (1858)

My first major Special Collections conservation treatment project of the year is already underway, courtesy of the recent acquisition of nineteen issues of  Northwestern Farmer and Horticultural Journal.   This mid-19th century publication had spent many years stored in a barn, and suffers from all the attendant conservation challenges one would expect from being stored in a Midwestern barn through the changing of the seasons year after year.  I’ll be posting in greater detail about the project in the coming months.

Last year, we implemented a new policy approach for so-called “medium-rare” materials (in particular, 19th and early 20th century publisher’s bindings) as they come to the lab for review or repair, and this year I’ll be turning my attention to our boxing policy, to see if there is room for comprehensive improvement or streamlined processes.

LennoxHeader

Of course, we’re also excited about this year’s Lennox Foundation Internship.  We’ve just started reviewing applications, and should be making our decision over the next several weeks. As always, the candidate we select will have an impact on what projects we develop and implement this summer.

And because we work in the preservation/conservation field, we are well aware that even the best laid plans can change dramatically, as we respond to whatever disasters may arise in the year ahead.

If you haven’t yet checked in with Duke University Libraries Conservation, then head on over to Preservation Underground to find out their 2014 outlook.  And may your own outlook be bright as 2014 gets underway!

Most conservation labs that I have worked in or visited have had an assortment of aprons and lab coats available for staff to use.  Given the nature of our lab here at ISU Library, lab coats are necessary PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).  We wear lab coats to protect ourselves and our clothing from chemical splashes, dirt, mold, red rot, and other nasty substances with which our work requires occasional contact.  The lab coats also protect us from splashes and dripping water during aqueous treatments, spilled glue, and, sometimes, the chilly lab temperature!  Finally, during disaster response or at preservation events, lab coats make our staff easily identifiable.

Rewashing-02

Wearing lab coats while washing flood-damaged architectural drawings after the 2010 Ames Flood.

Our lab coats have a basic, thigh-length, unisex design that gets the job done, but hardly in style.  The boxy cut presents problems when using the boardshears or double-fan adhesive press, since the loose fabric tends to snag on levers and handles.  The white color hides PVA residue well, but easily stains with mold, dirt, and red rot, so even after washing, the lab coats tend to look a bit dingy.  Also, the cotton twill fabric tends to shrink with repeated washings, so even if sleeves were full-length to begin with, they tend to shorten up over time, which isn’t always desirable.

MindyMoeller

Wearing a lab coat while getting messy at the bench (2010).

Fortunately for us, Iowa State University’s Apparel, Merchandising, and Design program consistently ranks among the best fashion design and apparel/textile programs nationwide.  We are currently exploring the possibility of working with a student from AESHM to design lab coats which meet the specific needs of the Preservation Department staff.

What would your ideal lab coat look like, if you could design one from scratch?  Please share your ideas in the comments!

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